Printech Archive
Re: Shop towels: Launderable vs. disposable

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From: Jeff Adrian (
Date: Wed Jan 20 1999 - 06:27:54 CST

                      Re: Shop towels: Launderable vs. disposabl 1/20/99
To all printechers:

I have been watching the active discussion regarding centrifuging of rental shop towels versus use of disposables. Since my company was one of the first to utilize centrifuging as a means of managing residual solvent left in shop towels, perhaps I can sh
ed some light on this discussion.

The major cost to inititiate a centrifuge process is the cost of the centrifuge itself. Yes there are some incidental costs, such as explosion-proof wiring (prudent choice), and perhaps some extra ventilation. It is not necessarily true that a seperate r
oom be built or set aside to centrifuge. It is advisable that centrifuging be in a somewhat secure area not likely to be involved in collision, as with a powerded industrial truck. Your local fire marshall can assist you in finding an appropriate locatio

Most important is that you look at payback. This will obviously vary with the number of towels processed per week. My own experience has been that if you are using more than about 5000 towels per week, centrifuging pays off quickly. Our experience was th
at we payed for the centrifuge within about 8 months. All savings after that were a bonus.

Something you may not have thought of can be an even bigger pay off. Should you have concerns about total VOCs from your facility, remember that if the recovered solvent, and hence the VOCs, are in the drum (and going to a TSDF), then those same VOCs are
 NOT in the air as an air emission! This may help you regarding your air emissions status and the level of air permit required, and thus flexibility to grow.

Also recovered solvents can be considered for recycling. Ours are distilled at the TSDF, the by-product returned to the original blender where it is brought back to specification, relabeled, and repackaged and sent back to our company. We eliminate more
than $26,000/year disposal costs!

If your towel usage falls below the threshold above, then perhaps there may be someone in your area that offers centrifuging as a service done on site.

Finally, a comment on the EPA's work on a new standard that addresses this area. Our facility was used by EPA to verify recovery rates, about 92% before distillation. It is true that EPA is not likely to specify centrifuging but rather just suggest it as
 one good method of management of solvent laden shop towels.

Bottom line: our experience has been that it good business to manage shop towels in this manner, as well as providing environmental and compliance benefits.

Jeff Adrian
Director of Environment & Safety
The John Roberts Company

Robert Gifford wrote:
>Forwarded on behalf of Jason Bowker, Quad Graphics
>------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
>There is presently no federal requirement for centrifuging launderable shop
>towels before they are sent off-site to your laundry service. The present
>regulation that the EPA is working on does not specifically require >
>centrifuging either, however it does seem to be presented in a manner that
>shows that it would be a "preferred" method of "drying" shop rags before
>they are sent off-site.
>While we are all waiting for a final regulation that will hopefully provide >
>some direction and clarification to the states as to the "status" of soiled
>shop towels; I wanted to clarify this point, as there are additional costs
>to consider with the installation of a centrifuge. Class I, Div I electrical
>components, the installation of a self contained room with explosion relief >
>panels, personnel training, etc. all start to come into play after the initial
>purchase price is settled on. >
>At present, DOT regulations or state specific interpretations rule how rags are >
>dealt with, but it seems that in any case where rags are transported, the
>requirement is that there are no "free-liquids" in the containers when they
>are transported. Centrifuging isn't the only way that the rags may be dried.
>Jason Bowker
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